Thoughts on life, leadership and the movement called the church by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Pastor's Tough Call

I've spent a lot of time in the past few weeks with a very good friend of mine, who is the pastor of another church. Like me, he's a church planter and we share the same heartbeat: to help every person come to know who Jesus is and help them know how great church life can be.

But church life is not always great. Especially for the Senior Pastor.

No time is that more true than when he must make controversial decisions regarding the staff and leadership of the church. I have been there several times. I have had to let go of staff members for poor performance, bad behavior, and - once or twice - because their job simply grew beyond their ability to do it. I've had to lay people off because giving was poor and we just didn't have the money to keep them. I've had to cut full-time folks to part-time status for the same reason.

At PCC, our Steering Team - which is like an Elder team - is always involved in these decisions, coaching and advising me. Occasionally, other staff members help, too, if they are the manager of someone else. Sometimes, they are the ones who carry the decision out. I know it weighs on others, too. But it always weighs on the Senior or Lead Pastor, regardless of who has the exit interview.

Some argue that letting a staff member go is not Christ-like. With all due respect, a person who says such a thing simply doesn't know much about the job we do or the calling we have. Let me explain.

We are pastors, leaders, communicators. And, we are also stewards. We are entrusted the allocation of resources - time, energy, and yes, personnel.* These resources are scarce. Further, I take Matthew 25:14-30 very seriously. I consider it a mandate to me as a Christ follower and a church leader. We must be responsible with whatever - and whomever - is entrusted to us. Sometimes that means we have to make a change.

For my friend and colleague, this is a new experience. The sleepless nights, the agony, the second-guessing. Then there are the people who can be so brutal in their judgment and so mean in their tone. I've been there. I've taken those calls, gotten those emails, had those meetings, and watched attendance decline. I know the feeling of coming home feeling so beat up...wondering why I continue to torture myself...crying out to God for some kind of relief.

Which is where we actually find the solution. Slowly, a new day dawns. We get up every day and gruel our way through the difficult season, and then we wake up and find.......Church is fun again. I enjoy coming in. I can't wait for Sunday. I'm EXCITED because I know God is up to something NEW! People are coming to know Jesus and lives are being transformed and marriages are being made and restored and a sense of life and joy and energy and passion and vision has returned - to the church and to my soul!

It will happen. But you have to work through the valley.

Pastor, make the tough call you've been avoiding. Most of us let it linger far too long (me included). And we end up stalled and stuck and leading our church to no-man's land. Pull the trigger. I know it's hard. Yes, there is a price you'll pay. But you can't stay where you are. Move into the valley so that you can journey towards new life again.

I'm praying today for the pastors I know making difficult choices and facing a certain burden which very few understand. But I do. And God does, too.

*NOTE: Yes, others are involved with that stewardship. But in a church like the one I lead, the buck stops with the Senior Pastor. He will carry a disproportionate share of decision-making burden, and he will get the brunt of the disgruntled church-member feedback.

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